When Lloyd Haynes arrived at a city jail more than a year ago, he warned an intake doctor that he has a rare medical condition requiring special care. Instead of getting needed attention, he was placed in a general-population housing unit filled with Crips gang members inside the Manhattan Detention Complex, Correction Department records show.
“They ignored me,” Haynes said during a jailhouse phone interview.
Haynes’s plight came during a year in which those held in city jails failed to appear at more than 30,000 scheduled appointments for specialty medical care. The main reasons inmates weren’t seen by a medical professional in 2018: Jail officers did not take them to the appointment or the patient refused to go, according to the city’s Board of Correction.
But the city Correction Department may pay the price for a lack of medical care, at least in Haynes’s case.
The Brooklyn man is now seeking $90 million in damages, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Manhattan Federal Court and obtained by THE CITY.
“The treatment that Mr. Haynes, a human being who was placed in the care and custody of the New York City Department of Correction, is beyond reprehensible and contrary to even basic medical standards,” said his attorney Daniel Hallak.
A city Law Department spokesman said the case is being reviewed. “The city is committed to providing people in DOC custody with the medical care they need,” said spokesman Nicholas Paolucci.
A Medical Crisis Behind Bars
Haynes’s odyssey through the criminal justice system began when he was arrested on January 31, 2018, and charged with stealing thousands of dollars from Santander Bank through fraudulent wire transfers.
At his initial medical screening, Haynes said he explained to an intake doctor that he suffers from Hirschsprung disease, a condition that affects the large intestine.
Haynes, who’s 39 and from Lefferts Gardens, wears an ileostomy bag over two holes in his abdomen. It is similar to a colostomy bag and collects feces.
But his ileostomy bag is larger and can only be purchased at two spots in New York, according to Haynes. “I told them it was hard to find,” he said.
Haynes normally replaces his skin barrier by reattaching the pouch twice a day to avoid infection.
Four days into his stint, Haynes’s bag began to overflow and leak fecal matter onto his stomach, he said. He was unable to sleep lying flat on his bunk because that would tip over the jammed pouch.
“It was terrible,” Haynes said. “I had to sleep sitting up with my back against a wall.”
The leak caused a painful infection on the skin of his stomach that looked like a series of inflamed bumps, he said.
Jail brass ordered new bags from a supplier six days after he was locked up, Haynes said. In the meantime, his mother desperately tried to bring him new bags but officials refused to use those and other supplies, saying they were a security threat, according to Haynes.
Jail officials finally relented and let his mother supply him with new bags nearly three weeks after his arrest, according to the lawsuit.
Doctors at the jail struggled to treat the infection on his stomach and ordered an appointment with a dermatologist at Bellevue Hospital, the lawsuit said. But Haynes says he didn’t actually see a dermatologist until five months later.
Care Out of Reach
City jail officials have long struggled to get inmates with unique medical conditions to so-called specialty clinics like Bellevue Hospital.
Only 38 percent of city detainees with specialty visits scheduled in January 2019 were actually seen, according to statistics published by the city’s Board of Correction. Jail officials said another 29 percent refused to go to their appointments over the same period, the report shows.
“We’re concerned about and studying the high rates of refusals for these appointments because it suggests there are other barriers to care,” said Board of Correction spokesman Bennett Stein.
Those obstacles could include overbooking and cancellations, lengthy wait times, waiting area conditions and lack of space, and transportation challenges, he added.
Haynes is not the only inmate to complain about shoddy medical care behind bars.
Joseph Foster, who suffered from high blood pressure and other ailments, begged for medical assistance after he began to feel intense head pain inside the Eric M. Taylor Center at Rikers Island on December 30, 2017, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.
Jail staff ignored him for close to an hour, according to a detainee in the area. He was later rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, where he died five days later.
It could have been prevented if he had been properly treated while he was on Rikers, a lawsuit filed by his family alleges.
“The city has resources to handle complex care, at Bellevue and in specialized housing units, but fails to use them competently in far too many cases,” said Mary Lynne Werlwas, director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society.
“People with complex and chronic conditions do not get the treatment they need,” she added. “It’s really a disgrace.”
Awaiting Help While Awaiting Sentencing
Haynes was finally taken to Bellevue Hospital on June 5, and doctors cleaned and dried the area around the blisters and bumps. They also gave him a medicated cream.
Back in jail, Haynes used the cream but it began to burn part of his skin by the infected area. It got so bad a nurse at the facility took a cell phone photo to show to other medical staff.
A new appointment at Bellevue was scheduled. Once again, it took months for jail staff to get him to the hospital on time to make the appointment, according to Haynes.
On Christmas Day, Haynes was finally moved to the medical unit on Rikers Island known as the North Infirmary Command.
Jail insiders said they have no idea why he wasn’t initially placed in that protective unit. The initial decision was made by a doctor with the city’s Correctional Health Services, a jail insider said. A representative for that agency declined to comment.
Still, the poor treatment continues, Hallak charged.
Haynes said he still hasn’t seen a gastroenterologist — despite the fact that his condition requires a surgical procedure every 6 to 12 months to remove any fecal matter that was not handled by the ileostomy bag.
As for his criminal case, in November he pleaded guilty to two counts of grand larceny and agreed to serve a two-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half year sentence and pay back the bank $30,000.
Haynes, who is set to be sentenced later this month, is hoping the judge takes mercy on him due to his medical plight.
This story was originally published in Intelligencer at nymag.com.